Mitchell and Ella Tromp speak to the media on Thursday. Photo: Eddie Jim ‘Out of character’: Mark and Jacoba Tromp.
Sergeant Mark Knight addresses the media on Thursday. Photo: Eddie Jim
The Tromp children: Mitch, Riana and Ella.
The Tromp family’s expansive home in Silvan. Photo: Tom Cowie
“When I see them,” said Yarra Valley policeman Sergeant Mark Knight, referring to the bizarre tale around Silvan farming family the Tromps, people he knows well, “I’ll sit them down and ask: ‘What the hell happened there?'”
In a strange and escalating chain of events with no real clues of what might have led there, four members from the family of five emerged from an ill-fated road-trip north cloaked in mystery and mounting concerns from family and police.
“It’s out of character,” said George Tromp, father of missing man Mark Tromp and grandfather to his shell-shocked children. “He’s just a normal bloke like me.”
Mr Tromp was last seen running away from the ditched family Peugeot in Wangaratta. A young couple who were out in their own car playing Pokemon Go on Wednesday night, after 10pm, says he “stalked” them.
“I could barely see his headlights because he was that close to my car,” said the young man, who asked not to be named. Whenever he pulled over, the Peugeot stopped right behind them. Then the man they insist was Mr Tromp got out and ran towards them, but stopped in the middle of the road and stared. They watched him walk into Wangaratta’s Merriwa Park and disappear into the night.
Police believe he had changed his clothes. He left the keys in the Peugeot’s ignition.
His wife Jacoba Tromp, 53, is in hospital in Yass, NSW – near Canberra – after being found wandering in an agitated state on Thursday. She had caught public transport, a train or a bus, from Wangaratta on her own.
Prior to all this, children Ella, 22, Riana, 29 and Mitchell Tromp, 25, separately escaped the road-trip, starting on Tuesday. Riana was found distressed beside a highway near Goulburn and is now in Goulburn District Hospital. Ella drove a car back to the family home in the Yarra Valley from Goulburn – a car she did not hire. The silver Peugeot the family set out in is hers.
Mitchell had got out of the car at Kelso, a suburb of Bathurst. He caught trains to Sydney then back to Melbourne. The children have suggested their parents had become more and more anxious and panicked on their way out of Victoria.
Mitchell said there was a “build-up” of pressure that had caused his parents to become “paranoid”, thinking they were being followed. He said the road-trip was supposed to be technology-free. He had brought his mobile phone, but threw it out the car window in Warburton.
“It slowly got worse as the days went by. They were just fearing for their lives, and then [we] decided to flee.” Their parents pushed on to Jenolan Caves, then Wangaratta, where they were seen together at a shopping mall. Police believe they separated again after this sighting and may be suffering from mental health issues.
However Sergeant Mark Knight of Monbulk is baffled. He knows the family and say they have no diagnosed mental health problems, or drug issues. No-one in the family has accessed a doctor or psychologist recently, or been issued a prescription, he says. They do not belong to any churches, or sects and do not have debts.
Two of the children live at home and all three work seven days a week in the family’s successful businesses – a berry farm and an earthmoving company. Daughter Ella has her own company as well supplying trucks and drivers to Yarra Valley farms.
The family moved to Silvan from nearby Macclesfield 10 years ago. Mr Tromp’s brother Ken is a police sergeant in Monbulk and is believed to be helping in the search for his brother.
“I am asking myself ‘what is going on?’,” said Sergeant Knight. “It’s a mystery. But there’s nothing sinister.”
Sergeant Knight said when he checked their home after the first reports of Riana being found near Goulburn, the house was open and keys were in car ignitions, but there was no sign of any struggle.
“This is just a massive melt-down, I’m sure of it. Something triggered them.” Timeline
Monday, August 29: The Tromps leave the family home in Ella’s Peugot to go on a technology-free road trip. During the course of the drive, it’s discovered Mitchell has brought his phone with him. He throws it out of the window near Warburton, about 32 kilometres from the family home. The family continues driving towards Bathurst.
Tuesday, August 30: Mitch decides he wants to go home. He leaves the family at Kelso, a suburb of Bathurst, about 7am and makes his way to Sydney.
The rest of the family continue on to the Jenolan Caves. That afternoon, they decide to split up. Ella and Riana make their way to Goulburn, but go their separate ways. Riana is found along the highway and is taken to the local hospital due to stress-related issues. Ella somehow acquires a car and drives back to the family home. Parents Mark and Jacoba are reported missing, and that afternoon police attend the family home to find credit cards and mobile phones lying around the house, and car keys in ignitions.
Wednesday, August 31: Mitchell arrives at the family home in the morning after catching the overnight train from Sydney. That afternoon, police search the Jenolan Caves area for Mark and Jacoba, but are unable to find them.
Thursday, September 1: Police are notified in the early hours of the morning that the family car has been located in Wangaratta and that a lone man was seen running the vehicle. It is believed this man was Mark. Later in the day, Jacoba presents herself to Yass District Hospital after a local found her wandering around town. Police continue to look for Mark during the evening, and have no reason to believe he has left the Wangaratta area.
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WHAT is the world coming to?
Let me just re-visit the allegations. A 69-year-old man, with his arm in a sling, is punched in the face by a stranger almost 40 years his juniorand kicked several timeswhile he is on the ground.
His 68-year-old wife, is knocked to the ground and injured by the same man’s motorcycle.
Both are, not surprisingly, left injured and traumatised, and aretaken by ambulance to John Hunter Hospital to be treated forcuts and bruising.
All apparently because they felt compelled to advise some revhead feralsthatthe outfield of their local cricket ground was not a motocross track.
It is a story most people would find appalling and atrocious, regardless of who was on the receiving end.
But when I learned the victims were former Test cricketer Robert “Dutchy” Holland his wife Carolyn, my emotions escalated from shock and disbelief to outright disgust.
Dutchy Holland is a Novocastrian icon and was one of my heroes long beforeI’d ever met him.
Any cricket tragic who experienced the West Indies’ reign of terror from the late-1970s to the mid-1990s will never forget that magical SCGTest of 1984-85.Those four glorious dayswhen a 38-year-old leg-spinner from Lake Macquarie humbled arguably the greatest team of all time.
It was a miracle, a fairytale, starring the most unlikely of saviours, a down-to-earth family man whose Test career did not start until an age when most players havelong since retired.
I’vebeen privileged to interview Dutchy a number of times over the years. Often enough toform the impression that he is just an absolute gentleman.
To give you an insight into the type of person he is, I’ll share a couple of anecdotes.
Twenty-odd years ago –a good while after his top-level career had finished and he was nurturing youngsters in second grade athis beloved Southern Lakes –I played against him for Lambton-New Lambton at Ron Hill Oval, Toronto.
It was an honour just to share the same turf.
In the first innings, I scored a few runs and even managed to hit him for a streaky boundary, which remains a rare highlight of my underwhelming career.
In oursecond innings, before I had scored he produced a ball that bounced (possibly the topspinner),flickingmy pad and glove before popping up for short leg to claim the catch.
Dutchy and the opposition fielders appealed. Not out, was the verdict from the umpire.
At that point the man who had bamboozled greats likeViv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge andIan Botham just looked at me and smiled.
I knew I was out. He knew I was out. That smile was perhaps the only time I felt guilty about dishonestly profiting from a favourable umpiring decision.
There was no need to sledge me. One knowing smile spoke 1000 words.
Mind you, I would be surprised ifDutchy sledged anyone during a career that spanned 50-odd years.
If you want to look up a definition of “good sportsmanship” or “ornament to the game”, I expect the dictionary will say: “See Robert Holland.’’
Fast-forward another 15 years or so and, after a lengthy retirement/hiatus, I found myself back at Ron Hill Oval making an ill-advised comeback.
In the second over, I chased a ball across the outfield and, just as I approached the speed of a startled snail, felt an excruciating “pop” in the back of my leg.
I’d torn my hamstring, which was a surprise, given that I didn’t know I had one.
No sooner had I limped from the field than I was greeted by none other than Dutchy Holland, who helped me to a seat andreturned several times with well-stockedbags of ice.
“I’ve never torn a hammybefore,’’ I told him sheepishly.
“It happens to all the good players,’’ he replied with a straight face.
Memories of thecare and concern he showed for my well-being that day came flooding back when I heard of the awful allegations of last weekend.All I can do is express my heartfelt sympathyto bothCarolyn and Robert, wish them speedy recoveries and hope there are no lingering ill-effects.
As for the 31-year-old man and 21-year-old woman who will appear in Belmont Local Court to face charges ofaggravated robbery,inflicting actual bodily harm andcommon assault, I’d like to think the legal system will deliver appropriate justice.
ICON: Former Test cricketer Robert “Dutchy” Holland and his wife Carolyn were the victims of an alleged assault last weekend. Picture: Marina Neil
NIGHT OF KNIGHTSWHO was the last NRL winger to be voted as his club’s player of the year?
That’s the question I’ve been pondering in the countdown to the Knights’ annual presentation function next week.
On his performances this year, Nathan Ross has to be a front-line candidate.
Dane Gagai is perhaps the favourite, on the strength of his try-scoring heroicsfor Queensland Origin.
Jeremy Smith, Daniel Saifiti and Sione Mata’utia will also come under consideration.
But as Newcastle’s leading tryscorer, and having averaged more metres in attack than any other teammate, the man they call “White Lightning” could well wind up collecting the club’s highest individual honour.
Noa Nadruku, Tom Ross and Jackson Stuart all have Canberra Raiders bloodlines. Photo: Rohan ThomsonThey’ve got Canberra Raiders premiership heroes in their blood, but three kids from the Green Machine golden era have rugby union glory on their minds.
Rusted-on Raiders fans will feel like they’ve stepped back in time when Noa Nadruku runs on to Viking Park for the under-18s schoolboys rugby grand final on Sunday.
But they won’t see the try-scoring cult hero from the 1990s. Instead, they’ll see his son, Noa Junior, line up alongside Jackson Stuart, the son of Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, in the St Edmund’s College team.
The man standing in the way of Nadruku and Stuart’s premiership bid is Daramalan College skipper Tom Ross, the nephew of two-time Clive Churchill Medal winner Bradley Clyde.
So it’s fitting that as Ricky Stuart and the Raiders chase a historic 10th consecutive win in Sydney on Father’s Day, generation next will run out at the same time for ACT schoolboy grand final action.
Nadruku was known as a try-scoring whiz with speed to burn, crossing the line 73 times in 92 games for the Green Machine. But Noa Junior, 17, has traded family speed for power as a rugby union No. 8.
“It is a bit bizarre with the Raiders connection,” Noa Junior said. “[Dad] doesn’t really talk about rugby much with me and my brother [Neori]. It’s more just my brother and I bouncing stuff off each other.
“Dad just gives us pointers about vision and stuff. In our family all of our cousins are backs and Neori and I are the only forwards. I only saw replays and videos of dad playing … I just wish I was as fast as he was.”
St Edmund’s wants to continue its Canberra schoolboy rugby dominance after winning all but three first XV grand finals since 2003.
The under-18s clash against Daramalan is the feature game of a blockbuster weekend of junior grand finals from the under-9s to the first XV at Viking Park.
The Raiders links add extra spice to a battle between powerhouse St Edmund’s and the undefeated Daramalan squad.
Raiders fans usually find Ricky Stuart on the sidelines at Canberra Stadium. But when the NRL schedule opens up, he’s standing on the sidelines at St Edmund’s matches to watch winger Jackson.
Jackson was playing rugby league last year and was set to commit to the 13-man game, but decided to have a crack at rugby union and was picked in the first XV.
“Dad gives me a few tips every now and then, just tells me to enjoy it and not to let everything get to me,” Jackson, 17, said.
“He gets out to every game but we’ve had a clash in times the last couple of weeks … he hasn’t been able to watch me and I haven’t been able to watch [the Raiders].
“So I’ll have to make sure we call him at half-time and give him an update of how we’re going. Mum’s pretty happy with everything, I think.”
St Edmund’s has won the past three ACT junior premierships in a row, but Daramalan is undefeated and intent on winning their first title since the late 1990s.
Ross is an Australian schoolboys prop and will lead the Daramalan charge to end the school’s premiership drought.
“If you look back over the last 10 years, St Eddies has dominated the competition, so it would be good for us to steal one,” Ross said. “We’re coming in as underdogs because of that, but you’d like to think we’re a good chance.
“I looked up to Brad [Clyde] and that got me into playing rugby league, but when I went to Daramalan I started playing rugby union.
“He gives me a bit of advice now but it’s more about life goals rather than how to play footy, which has been good.”
There will be 22 junior grand finals on Saturday and Sunday, with teams from 18 clubs competing for titles at Viking Park. The under-18s match will start at 1.30pm and be the curtain-raiser to the National Rugby Championship match between the Canberra Vikings and NSW Country Eagles.
Senator Pat Dodson has made his maiden speech in parliament. Photo: Peter Eve / Yothu Yindi FoundationIndigenous WA Labor Senator Pat Dodson has delivered his maiden speech to parliament calling on members to resist any push to create laws that oppress or discriminate against race, religion or sexuality.
The 68-year-old Yawuru man from Broome spoke of the difference of opinions within the chamber – but says any debate needs to informed by respect for Australia’s diversity. He spoke amid the backdrop of a challenging week in Australian racial relations, with a riot taking place in Kalgoorlie’s main street on Tuesday after alleged manslaughter of indigenous teenager Elijah Doughty.
“We must exercise the greatest diligence in making sure that every action, every word we speak, has as its object building consensus and not distracting,” Senator Dodson told parliament.
“We know, as a fact, that some Australian legislation in the past was founded on outmoded patterns of thought and belief. Our laws have, at times, been based on ingrained paternalism and racial superiority, denying our shared humanity.
“Such mind-sets justified repeated acts of greed that grabbed the lands of our people without negotiation, settlement or compensation.
“And at times at great human cost, with many lives being taken or cut short. Those laws built bureaucratic systems and processes that controlled the lives of our people; stifling life choices; creating the sorrow, pain and anguish of children ripped from the arms of their mothers.”
Senator Dodson spoke of childhood memories of watching ” age-mates being taken by welfare and police” and looking on in fear as white people “vented their hatred and anger against Aboriginal stock-workers” from Wave Hill Station for demanding justice and equal wages.
“The Australian laws of that time were unarguably founded on a social outlook that was highly ethnocentric even racist. Many of the laws were genocidal in intent, application and consequence.
“These laws and regulations cannot be permitted to emerge once more in our precious democracy. Our Australian democracy evolves and grows as our nation matures. In times past, people of a different race, a different colour, a different religion, a different sexuality were subject to exclusion, oppression or even discrimination under the laws made in this Place.
“Such laws cannot and must not return to this place.”
Canberra United striker Caitlin Munoz, right, will miss the upcoming season after suffering an ACL injury. Photo: Jay CronanCanberra United has signed United States star Stephanie Ochs but her arrival will be offset by a devastating knee injury to veteran Caitlin Munoz.
Munoz will miss the entire W-League season after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament last weekend for the fourth time.
Coach Rae Dower said it was “shattering” news just two months before the start of the upcoming season.
“Unfortunately she’ll miss being on the field this year but she will play a pretty important role off the field being our spiritual leader, but it’s shattering news for her and certainly for the squad,” Dower said.
“She worked really hard over the last 12 months and was obviously a bit unlucky to miss out on selection to Rio for the Olympic squad.”
Ochs was a prominent striker during United’s last championship two years ago and Dower said she would also provide experience and team-first passion.
“She scored in our most recent grand final win over Perth, she scored a great goal there, she played a major role in scoring goals and assists,” Dower said.
“She’s a lovely person as well, good team character. She’s a good team player, so we’re excited that she’s going to come back to join the green family.”
United starts its season on November 12 at Canberra Stadium against last year’s champions Melbourne City as part of a double-header, with an A-league match between Central Coast and Wellington to follow.
The Remembrance Day clash will be one of 19 double-headers for the season, and Dower said it was a good way to promote the league.
“The more visibility that female players get within the mainstream football community then the more people will see what a quality product it is,” she said.
United will have a bye in the first round, giving Dower and her side a chance to assess the competition and the new set-ups of each team.
“It will be a transitional year for the club, there are a few players with study or work commitments that are having to have a year off,” Dower said.
“There will certainly be a few new faces to the squad, some more youth players coming through as well, which will be good.”
LEADERS: Forsythes’ Karlie Robards and Souths’ Tiffany Gilmour get their hands on the Newcastle championship silverware. Picture: Simone De PeakFORSYTHES coach Traci Baber believes herside can match it with Souths at either end of the courtwhen theytry for a third time to stop them marching to aNewcastle open netball championship on Saturday.
It will be“just what happens in the middle” that will decider if they can end Souths’ unbeaten streak, which started after aloss to Forsythes in early 2014.
Souths will strive for a hat-trick ofminor-major premiership doubles when they clash with Forsythes (formerly Bilbie Dan Advocates) for a third year in a row in the grand final at National Park from 2.30pm.
Baber’s side have overcome a disrupted season to finish fourth and beat Nova and Maryville Tavern in the finals.Despite the tough run, Baber said her playerswerein a better position to topple Souths this year.
“I just think they are all older and they make better decisions,” Baber said. “It’s never been about our ability on the court. They’ve always been talented girls, it’s just about decision-making and how they play under pressure.I think we match up with them everywhere, but they are just older heads and smarter.Our defence is good enough.We’ll turn over the ball, and Sabina [Gomboso]will get the goals for us, it’s just what happens in the middle.”
Without attacking weapon Tiffany Gilmour, Southswon 40-36 in last year’s decider after they prevailed40-24 in 2014.Gilmour (nee Lincoln), a former Hunter Jaegerand two-time state league player of the year, has returnedthis year, making Souths an evenmoreformidable side.
Gilmour, though,saidForsythes were atougher proposition this year.
“They didn’t have a solid start to the season but I think sometimes you learn more from losses and they are building at the right time,” Gilmoursaid.
“Their maturity is definitely starting to show on the court. In the Maryville game on the weekend, it was close but they were able to hold it together. But we’ve also matured with our youngerplayers now older, and we’ve got a lot of experience right across our whole team, so it will be a good contest.”
As for the potential forcomplacency, Gilmour said:“We don’t have slipping up in our minds. We’re out there to win and hopefully win convincingly.”
Souths:Tiffany Gilmour, TiannaCummings, EmmaDumbrill, NarelleEather, JordanLadwig, ElizaLewis, EllieMcVey, GeorgiaMcVey, LisaSpencer, KatelynStansfield, Brooke Fennings.
Forsythes: Karlie Robards,Natasha Robards,TiuatiHolland, JadeSmallhorne, EmmaBradford, SabinaGomboso, EvaBailey, SophieBaber, MaddieTaylor,AneekaMarcozzi, KelseyRyall.
Forsythes haveLogan Flanagan away with representative touch football duties, while Souths are full-strength except for the loss of Katrina Tressider, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the campaign.
Gilmour said her side had been “building as well, even though we’ve won all year.We’ve had some ordinary games, then we’ve gone back to training and worked on things.We’re looking strong and it’s coming together at the right time.”
She said Souths’ depth had helped them stay focused and unbeaten this season.
“I think all 12 players are so talented and so strong, that that pushes you to keep wanting to go and do your best, because you know there’s other people who can come on and replace you,” she said.
“I think that’s why we are so strong, because of our depth. And we worked hard every week.I think we’re one of the hardest training teams in the comp.”
Baber said Gilmour and Eather“are the two we have to counteract, but we’ve talked about it and we’ve got a strategy, whether it works or not.
“But I’ve got lots of change-ups that Ican do, and that’s how we won the preliminary final.
“Of the 11 who were there, 10 played and we were able to change things.We never had that through the year. We usually had seven, eight players and if it wasn’t working, we were done.”
She said the loss of Flanagan was a blow to her defence “because she played amazing last week to get us here, but I’ve got plenty there I can call on.”
STORM BREWING: Broadmeadow captain Josh Piddington and Edgeworth counterpart Josh Evans at Magic Park this week. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.
BROADMEADOW Magic will consider playing semi-final absentee Shane Paulandoffer injured skipper Josh Piddington every chance to take the fieldin the grand final on Sunday against Edgeworth at Magic Park.
Paul has been one of Magic’s best this season but has played only once since July 24, mainly because of suspensions and rests due to potentialyellow card bans.The tenacious ball winner alsomissed both semi-final victories over Hamilton to attend buck showsfor afriend and brother.Despite thelay-off,Magic co-coach Bob Naumov said Paul remained in the mix for grand final selection.
Watch 1st grade – Edgeworth v Broadmeadow from 2.30pm“He’s available and he’ll be looked at,” Naumov said. “Shane Paul is the kind of guy who will give you massive energy every time he plays. He’ll definitely be looked at to play some role. It’s a really tough call and in normal circumstances you would say 100 per cent, you wouldn’t look at it, but if anyone knows Shane Paul, they know he’s a guy who gives his heart and soul to the team. Whenever you go on the field, he’s one guy you want next to you.”
He said the decision on Paul was the coaching staff’s to make“but definitely you would like the backing of the whole group”.
The other major decision for Magicwas on Piddington, whoinjured his knee late in last week’s 2-1 win over Olympic. The centre-back has received mixed medical advice about his medial cruciate ligament tear and remains in serious doubt.Naumov said Piddington hadseen aspecialist and will “weigh up if he can do it then have a fitness test”.
“First and foremost, he’s got to weigh up it up in regards to his own health,” he said.“We’ve got a couple of options there andwe’ve got a good enough squad.If Piddo is out, as much as that’s a loss, it just means someone else steps up and I’ve seen that many times.”
Edgeworth, meanwhile, came throughtheir5-1 loss to Western Sydney in the FFA Cup on Tuesday night unscathed and willchaseback-to-back premiership doubles on Sunday. EaglesCoach Damian Zane did not believe the extra workload would be a problem andsaid the pressure was on Magic.
“A lot of people are saying there’s no way we can back up from Tuesday,” Zane said.“For me, the pressure is on them, because if they can’t beat us after we just chased an A-League team for 90 minutes, then they’ll probably never beat us.”
He said Brody Taylor, who returned from an ankle injury against Wanderers, was likely to come off the bench.
Zane said the message to his team would be that “they can be special”.
“I’ve already said to them that what they’ve done in the last two years, they are going to remembered as a team.
“You win the double double, you’re going up into the special category where people will look back and say, ‘what a great team that was’.
“So they are hungry, we set goals at the start of the season and we’ve ticked them all off so far. This is another one.”
As for fatigue, Zanebelieved“like Tuesday night, the adrenaline will keep the boys going”.
Naumov did not believe the Eagles would have trouble backing up from the FFA Cup game.
“I didn’t think they struggled physicallythe other day, and they had a tough game on the Saturday,” Naumov said.
“I don’t expect them to struggle physically. I didn’t see signson Tuesday ofthem strugglingphysically. Even though the scoreline blew out a bit, I didn’t think they backed off. They kept going for the 90 minutes.
“They’ve got young kids who can run all day, but if you can match them physically, we should do well.
“We’ll back our ability and see how we go.”
Watch under-22s – Broadmeadow v Emerging Jets from 12.30pmWatch under 19s – Weston v Broadmeadow from 10.30am
NO ONE does contrition like Mike.
Mike Baird in Hunter Street Mall in 2014, following the resignations of Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwell. PICTURE: Ryan Osland
In August 2014, in the days following the resignations of formerNewcastle and Charlestown MPs Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwellafter admitting to receiving thousands of dollars in illegal donations, the Premier penned anopen letter to the Hunter.
He apologised, expressed his own sense of “betrayal” at what had happened,and vowed tomake amends.
“if I have to do it house by house, suburb by suburb, community group by community group, that’s what I’ll do,”Mr Baird told the Newcastle Herald at the time.
A few days later hevisitedNewcastle and saidthe Liberal Partyhad“let down the community” and “forfeited the right” to stand candidates in the by-elections that followed the scandal.
I thoughtof that on Tuesday when the Independent Commission Against Corruption released thelong-awaited findings of Operation Spicer –the investigation into illegal donations that eventually brought down four Liberal MPs in the Hunter, and embroiled an all-starcast of Newcastle property developers.
The report, as most of you will have read or read about, found that many of the Hunter’s most well-known political and business identities had attempted to subvert electoral laws prior to the 2011 election.
But it wasunable to suggest any punishment for most of the players, because of the statute of limitations.
Following its releaseMr Baird again said sorry, this time to the state of NSW, but whenasked if the government would join Labor in pushing for legislation to allow Spicer’s findings to be covered by new donations legislation passed in the wake of the inquiry, he demurred.
The targets of the inquiry had already paid a “heavy price”, he said. It was now time to “draw a line in the sand”.
That’s easier said than done in the Hunter, wherethe targets of the inquiry go on unpunishedand act without contrition. The former Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy, who as a banned donor gavethousands of dollars to the campaigns of Mr Owen, Mr Cornwell, and former Swansea MP Garry Edwards, likened the findings to a “speeding ticket”.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, another never-ending Newcastle story re-awoke. Save Our Rail, the activist group you either love or hate, is being pursued by the state government for $800,000 in costs over its failed Supreme Court bid. The governmentwill never see any of that money –Save Our Rail is an incorporated group, it has no money –but the government’s lawyers (there were 10 of them in the court on Thursday) seemto want to set an example.
How do you marry those sentiments? In the same week that his former Liberal Party colleagues go unpunished for breaching electoral funding laws, the government is on a bloody-minded pursuit ofa community group that exercised its very fundamental right tostand up against what it saw as an unreasonable use of the executive’s powers.
The government came intotheweek reeling from the spectacle of itsmembers crossing the floor to vote against thebill to ban greyhound racing,and a Fairfaxpoll that revealed it’s now neck-and-neck with Labor.How it handled Spicer was always going to be key.
Politicians are fond of the invoking the idiom of the pub test, wherebyan actionismeasured not onits legality, but by howit wouldbe receivedby what I can only think to describe asnormal people –i.e. you, the reader, voter, schooner consumer.To me, the government failed that test this week.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Leader of the House Christopher Pyne on Thursday night. Photo: Andrew Meares Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke discuss tactics on Thursday night. Photo: Andrew Meares
Labor caught out the Coalition government at the end of a fractious first week in the 45th parliament, using smart tactics and parliamentary procedure to severely embarrass Malcolm Turnbull and explode the prime minister’s claim to have a strong working majority.
Here’s how it went down.
The opposition’s push for a motion calling for a royal commission into the major banks was defeated in the House on Wednesday.
It then moved on to the Senate and, after discussions with the crossbench, it was quietly passed on the voices around lunchtime Thursday – with a rider that asked the House to debate the motion again.
Parliamentary motions, of course, cannot force the government to hold a royal commission into the nation’s banking sector – only the executive can do that.
But it is a dreadful look for the government – and in particular the government whips and the Leader of the House, who have fought a furious rearguard action against the inquiry – to defy motions passed by both chambers.
That is why Labor pounced.
The timing and the tactics were spot on and caught the government napping.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Social Services Minister Christian Porter were absent from the chamber and in short order, three votes were lost.
The House did not rise, MPs could not fly home, the motion to back in a royal commission was back on the agenda – and Labor went to town in the chamber, infuriating the government because they had been caught napping, pushing its agenda and stoking a sense of chaos.
In and of itself, losing procedural motions will not cause the government to fall.
Between 2010 and 2013, Julia Gillard’s minority government lost motions, too. It also passed hundreds of pieces of legislation in a far more precarious environment, and then-leader of the house Anthony Albanese and chief whip Joel Fitzgibbon were masters of parliamentary procedure, saving the then-PM’s blushes and steering through big reform packages.
Turnbull and his team, buffeted from within and without in a difficult first week, became the first majority government since 1962 – when Sir Robert Menzies had a one seat majority – to lose a vote on the floor.
Strong working majority be damned.
The final vote on the substantive motion was symbolically important – but also irrelevant.
The government was caught napping and the opposition exposed it as lazy and complacent, not across the detail and not up to speed in the “new paradigm” of the 45th parliament.
Labor has put down a clear marker that the Coalition will have to fight for every vote, for every motion, and for every bill.
And if Turnbull’s team doesn’t catch up – quickly – it will be exposed, again and again.
There will be few early marks in this new parliament and the government needs to get its house in order, or face nothing more than three years of disorder.
Ultimately, voters will mark down Turnbull – not Shorten – if the prime minister can’t control the parliament.
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A PR strategy wanted to ensure that John Barilaro was in the media “at least once a week”. Photo: Jeffrey ChanNegative publicity over cuts to TAFE led to consideration of a public relations strategy to ensure the responsible minister, John Barilaro, is in the media “at least once a week”.
A leaked tender document for a “PR Media Strategy TAFE NSW” reveals an unnamed senior media officer in Mr Barilaro’s office “has a stated ambition to make the Minister No.4 in NSW in terms of visibility and profile”.
It notes the Skills Minister’s office “is under pressure from the Premier’s Office media managers to get the minister into the metropolitan news at least once a week”.
The Baird government’s Smart and Skilled reforms mean TAFE colleges are forced to compete for funding with up to 400 private colleges.
This saw TAFE student fees jump by up to 22 per cent last year, enrolment figures fall by 41,000 since the start of 2015 when the changes were introduced and more than 2000 TAFE teachers lose their jobs.
The leaked “request for quote” document from July 2015 reveals the level of concern over negative media coverage of the changes.
It says: “The Sydney Morning Herald is extremely hostile towards TAFE and has run several negative articles focusing on enrolment drops, asset sales, disability support cuts and computer issues.
“The Daily Telegraph is more interested in human interest angles,” it states. The ABC’s national or state coverage “tends to be negative eg VET-FEE rorts, loss of TAFE courses”.
In reference to high-profile scandals in the private vocational education and training sector, the document notes that some providers “have not always acted 100 per cent ethically”.
This has generated “a media and public narrative that a neo-Liberal or neo-con government has forced TAFE to compete with “dodgy” private providers because – so the argument goes – the government favours business and public providers”.
Meanwhile, documents obtained by Labor under freedom of information laws show TAFE enrolments for 2016 were 363,581 at June 5 this year – well below the forecast of 453,400 for 2016 in the budget.
However, more up-to-date figures supplied by Mr Barilaro’s office show 2016 enrolments had hit 464,727 at August 28.
Opposition skills spokeswoman Prue Car said TAFE enrolments have “tanked” compared with 2014 and those for private colleges and for apprentices in training have also fallen.
“None of this is a priority for John Barilaro,” she said.
“His only goal is to be the No.4 minister in NSW, and if young people are left on the hard shoulder of his ambition then so be it.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Barilaro declined to comment, but a TAFE spokesman said the PR tender was withdrawn this week and the minister was not aware of it.